What is Technical Writing?

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.

Technical writing is a form of writing that is commonly used in academic institutions and information sharing. Learn about technical writing, its different features, and see how it used in legal documents, medical documents, and operation/repair manuals. Updated: 11/09/2021

Technical Writing

Have you ever had to write a lab report in a science class or watched a how-to video about replacing your brakes? If not, chances are you've still had some sort of experience with technical writing - a style of communication used to convey information on a specific subject and typically geared toward specialized audiences.

This writing style is often associated with relaying information concerning or via technological services, as well as with trained professionals in general. Let's look at some of the features of technical writing that set it apart from other writing styles, along with some special groups of readers of technical material.

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  • 0:03 Technical Writing
  • 0:44 Features
  • 2:35 Legal Documents
  • 3:17 Medical Documents
  • 4:01 Operation/Repair Manuals
  • 4:44 Lesson Summary
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Features

Audience

Part of what makes technical writing so 'technical' is that an article, journal, or manual is usually geared toward a very specific audience, like lawyers, doctors, and mechanics. Some technical material is also written for a general, non-technical audience.

Purpose

No matter who the audience might be, though, forms of technical writing usually share one simple goal, or purpose: to provide crucial information on a very particular subject, such as a medical condition or software issue, in the most comprehensible way possible. And, to make sure their readers understand them, technical writers typically rely on a very particular tone when conveying information.

Tone

While novels and short stories use a narrative tone to tell a story, technical writing uses a descriptive or instructive approach. Whereas their literary cousins might employ anecdotes, metaphors, and many other literary and rhetorical devices throughout their narratives, technical writers tend to exclude these tools and techniques from their work. Instead, they usually rely on concise, straightforward language to convey information and make it as reader-friendly as possible.

Diction

Even though technical writers try to convey information in a simple manner, not every reader is going to understand everything they have to say. For the most part, technical writers use straight-forward diction, or the choice and arrangement of words, and avoid using bigger or more colorful words when a simpler one will do.

Nevertheless, readers of technical writing should also be aware that there's often a considerable amount of jargon, or terms with specific usages in particular fields, that they need to learn before they can effectively comprehend and apply the text. In this next part, we'll explore some examples and special vocabulary words found in technical writing.

Legal Documents

Anyone who's had to read a legal document or participated in a mock legislature already knows that there's almost no writing more technical than copy concerning the law. The long complex sentences frequently found in legal documents are often difficult for the average person to follow, however, legal experts see the many subordinate clauses and parenthetical comments as necessary when conveying the full extent and intent of the law.

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